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Writing new narratives
This dynamic fidelity to the Founder consistently follows its own internal laws. It is marked first of all by the community character of our search. Although confided to us as persons, the institution and its purpose are not in the hands of individuals. Fidelity to the Founder is entrusted to the Institute, that is to say, the community of the persons who constitute it. A living community in dialogue is the locus par excellence for the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit.
The Declaration,revised 1997
Part One: Fall
Laying the foundation for sustaining the mission is the focus in this Module.
Part Two: Spring
This module examines the movement of the Spirit in the Lasallian World.
Brother Luke Salm tells us in his book, The Work is Yours, that Faith, Zeal, and Community are the legs upon which De La Salle’s legacy stands. Today (2019) the statistics speak for themselves: approximately 5,000 brothers and 82,000 lay partners totaling 87,000 Lasallian educators in 80 countries serving over One million students. As De La Salle was fond of reminding God, “The work is yours”. It is in community believing God is present that we roll up our sleeves and zealously go about our days. Much like the poor always being with us, there will always be students needing to believe in themselves so that they can perform the miracles we are told we do. Prepared for service to others in a world desperately in need of compassion, courage, and understanding.
This module brings us to our sixth and final theme, “Legacy”. How De La Salle and the early brothers promised to make it work has passed three centuries later for us to continue to make it work. What is our role today in the Legacy of De La Salle and the Brothers of the Christian Schools. How does the legacy endure where there are no Brothers? Do we see ourselves as Lasallians and part of the story? This module invites to explore these questions as we delve into the Lasallian legacy.
The Brothers, from different generations and with different experiences, somewhat from the nature of things, learned to work together, to imagine their future, and, obviously, made some mistakes in their efforts. It is striking to note how often in Blain’s biography, he tells us that the Brothers in Paris met to make a decision, to evaluate, to discuss and to write... In a certain manner, they ratified and, as it were ‘owned’, the commitments of 1691 and 1694.
The person of Brother Barthélémy stands out firmer and more clear-sighted about what was at stake in the decisions to be taken to give the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools its full scope. Undoubtedly, he also absorbed into his experience of God the complete newness of “uniting myself and living in Society, with... in order to... ”.
The “body of the Society” realised that “to unite and live in Society” was the key to its future. It was by deepening and living this feature of its commitments that it had found salvation. The Institute was now ready to put into practice the decision of 7th June 1694: to choose a Superior from among its members, someone who “would have been associated with and would have made vows with them”. It was also ready to take on the particular spirituality which animated John Baptist de La Salle, and which he had transmitted to them and continued to transmit, throughout his life. That experience of God had become their own; it has become ours.
(Brother Jean-Louis SCHNEIDER
JOHN BAPTIST DE LA SALLE (1711 – 1714)
or “THE TEMPTATION of PARMÉNIE”
The Conduct of the Christian Schools, written in 1706, gives a “nuts and bolts” approach to De La Salle’s vision laying out the areas of importance as well as the means to achieve them.
What John Baptist de La Salle had lived through was understood as the holy work of God. God was present in this life. He was the beginning and end of it: the greater glory of God, the holy work of God, it has pleased God to make use of you, God has given and still gives you... God is present in this work, in this History, in this society.
To establish it and to direct it for such a long time, the talents needed to govern properly: these are the gifts that God granted to John Baptist de La Salle so that he should carry out his work in the Church for this new Society, for the benefit and good of the Church. The Brothers emphasize the length and permanent nature of this gift of God: over such a long period God has given you and still gives you the graces. Again we must turn to the Meditations for the Time of Retreat in order to find out how and why God acts:
The link, established by John Baptist de La Salle in his Meditations between the active ministry of the Brothers and the active presence of God in his work, is seen by the Brothers in the work of their Founder. The establishment of the Society of the Brothers is understood as a salvific act in which God speaks and allows himself to be seen.
This is the door to the room where De La Salled stayed while with the Brothers in Grenoble. For more information see: In the Footsteps of De La Salle.
God led John Baptist de La Salle into the desert and Monsieur de La Salle discovered him again in the Promised Land of the Community, in Grenoble, and in the letter of the Brothers in Paris. The word of the Community shed light on his life. As a result of this, roles were somewhat reversed. Those who were enlightened by him in their lives now did the same in the life of the Founder. So well had they assimilated the plan of salvation they had lived with him that their word could become a sign.
John Baptist de La Salle had doubted his own efforts when he saw that all his attempts throughout his life to establish the Institute seemed to have come to nothing. Those efforts of his had been directed towards bringing into existence the Society, which seemed to have broken apart. The Brothers had made a vow of association and the Society was breaking up into independent community groups. Even more seriously, the rapport between John Baptist de La Salle and several Brothers appeared to have disintegrated, as well as the overall work they had, up to that time, accomplished by their united efforts. He had tried to be a true Father to his Brothers, and had reached a stage where he was led to believe he was incapable of governing, being rejected by them. But, lo and behold, the Institute came to exist in its own right: the members assembled on their own initiative, the Society was alive, it willed to confront the problems facing it. This was evidenced by their taking up the ‘word’. The association stood firm; it was in its own name that the Brothers came together; they relied on association to recall their Founder. The Community was capable of re-reading its History, with him, and to tell it back to him. It was capable of understanding its own commitment, and the unique commitment of the Founder as a ministry given by God.
He was not alone. He was still one of their number. The Brothers following in the footsteps of John Baptist de La Salle, read their History from a mystical point of view: God, his plan, his action, his will. They understood how the Founder had corresponded therewith. It was his plan, his action, his way of seeing God’s will and being disposed to obey it. They said that, in reality, God’s work was being done in this Society, by John Baptist de La Salle and by what they had accomplished and still wanted to accomplish in union with him. God was present in their individual histories as in the common history of their Society. This history was also a history of salvation within the Church.
In the normal course of events, the material elements of such legacies are dissipated or transferred, the dying recommendations of the testator quickly forgotten. Such might have been the fate of the testament of De La Salle had he not left behind a more enduring legacy whose value and effectiveness would only increase with the passing of time, namely, his Institute.
Loss (A Time to Pause and Reflect)
Call to mind the loss of someone you valued in life - someone you respected and who taught you important things about yourself and life itself. What emotional response did you have when you were aware of that loss? What is your emotional response even now as you remember that person? What did he or she give you?
The Board of Directors (Reflection and Dialogue)
There are 12 chairs around the Board table. Each chair is designated for someone in your life who has been significant to you and influential in your own development and growth. Who are the 12? They can be women or men, young or old, living or dead, someone you met and knew personally or an author, film director or other person you may not have known personally but who helped shape you.
How many are men? Women? Older than you? Younger than you? Living? Dead? Different ethnicity? Different race?
Why is each person included in your Board?
How are you part of their living legacy?
Use the Board of Directors reflection as content for sharing and dialogue in small group conversation.
Board of Directors
For Reflection and Posting a Response
The Meditations reveal how St. De La Salle believed the way and reason by which God Acts.
God desires all to be taught this knowledge, that their minds may be enlightened by the light of faith.
In his Providential care…God has called YOU to this ministry.
God has made YOU His ministers.
He has had the goodness to call upon YOU to procure such an important advantage for children.
YOU are the ambassadors and ministers of Jesus Christ in the work that you do, YOU must act as representing Jesus Christ himself.
Jesus Christ has chosen YOU among so many others to be his cooperators in the salvation of souls.
It is a great gift of God, this grace he has given you to be entrusted with the instruction of children, to announce the gospel to them and to bring them up in the spirit of religion…this is the work of God.
How am I part of the living legacy and a participant in the spiritual mission De La Salle began and which he turned over to us?
Master Oogway tells Shifu to give up the illusion of control. What does it mean to live with illusion of control? How do you see that played out in De La Salle’s life?
“As we prepare for the real future, what may be more difficult in our lives is letting go of something beautiful that we ourselves have helped to create; accepting that this should be abandoned, not because it has lost its beauty, but because its time has passed and another new beauty is forming”* We Lasallians are called to form this new beauty.
Bernard J. Lee, SM, The Beating of Great Wings: A Worldly Spirituality for Active, Apostolic Communities. (New London: Twenty-Third Publications, 2004), p. 32. as quoted in Lasallian Reflection 3.
The “body of the Society” realized that “to unite and live in Society” was the key to its future. It was by deepening and living this feature of its commitments that it had found salvation. The Institute was now ready to put into practice the decision of 7th June 1694: to choose a Superior from among its members, someone who “would have been associated with and would have made vows with them”. It was also ready to take on the particular spirituality which animated John Baptist de La Salle, and which he had transmitted to them and continued to transmit, throughout his life. That experience of God had become their own; it has become ours.
(Brother Jean-Louis SCHNEIDER, JOHN BAPTIST DE LA SALLE
(1711 – 1714) or “THE TEMPTATION of PARMÉNIE”, page 37)
In accordance with the tradition of OUR INSTITUTE
Lasallians, by tradition, have gone beyond the borders. This creative impulse comes from our foundation, when John Baptist de La Salle, going beyond the social and religious borders of his time, brought together a heterogeneous group of lay teachers that, in the spirit of partnership was first transformed into community, then into society, and finally into Institute. The Lasallian model was the prototype of all the brotherhoods of education which, in the middle of the 19th century, became the fastest growing movement in the church. During its more than three centuries of existence, this Institute, which has twice been on the verge of disappearing in France, his country of birth, has spread today to 79 countries where nearly a million students are educated. What are the fundamental principles that have allowed it to continue with such vitality for so long? What can we say about the successful application of these principles in so many and such varied countries and cultures, allowing it to transcend the pre-set differences of race, gender, language and religion?
In general, we could talk about two fundamental principles: the constant preoccupation with the education and empowerment needed to enable the disadvantaged to live with dignity, and the spirit of gratuity and service in the training offered and received in our educational works.
The last General Chapters and International Mission Assemblies have provided remarkable shades of innovation in the application of these two principles …
The Lasallian DISCERNMENT process
Like the Founder and the first Brothers who were deeply moved by the human and spiritual distress of the children of artisans and of the poor, we today need to effectively respond to the needs expressed in the metaphor of the “border”.
This metaphor makes us feel uncomfortable and challenges us. How are we to respond? In Jesus we have the model of one who lets himself be challenged in order to discern. With the fierceness of her faith, they Syrophoenician woman challenged the response-ability of Jesus. It depended on the miracle of listening, abandoning prejudices and allowing himself to be transformed by the power of truth.
In the Gospels, this is the only case where we see a Jesus that changes his mind. John Baptist de La Salle likewise let himself be challenged for he, too, needed to discern.
Lasallian discernment broadly follows three steps: becoming aware of personal and local reality; shedding light on that reality by the Word of God through prayer and dialogue with prudent people; and making decisions aware of the personal and community implications. Reflecting on John Baptist de La Salle’s vocation, we could say that these steps were: he went “beyond his borders” to meet with Nyel and with the world of the education of the poor; he entered into dialogue with Nicolas Barre and Nicolas Roland with a view to bringing about the establishment of the first schools and the first society of teachers.
After more than three hundred years of Lasallian presence in the world, we are invited today to discern with responsibility and audacity and respond to the challenges of the educational mission in the different contexts, particular cultures, different religions and complex variety of social conditions. Today more than ever, the Church and the world are calling us to go beyond the borders.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This prayer was first presented by Cardinal Dearden in 1979 and quoted by Pope Francis in 2015. This reflection is an excerpt from a homily written for Cardinal Dearden by then-Fr. Ken Untener on the occasion of the Mass for Deceased Priests, October 25, 1979. Pope Francis quoted Cardinal Dearden in his remarks to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2015. Fr. Untener was named bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, in 1980.
The seed must die and break: The story of the mustard seed from the Gospel of Matthew 13:31-32 in two sentences tells us what the video explores. Many people fear the dying and the breaking but why is it necessary?
Parker Palmer encourages us to be fully present as our real selves in the world. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is risky business. How do I listen to the wisdom of my heart - what is worth living for?
How is going beyond our borders, something encouraged by Lasallian leadership, a kind of dying and breaking open? In what ways do you go beyond your own borders personally or as an educational institution?
How have I been changed by listening?
How are educators (we’re all educators if we interact with students) prophets of a future not our own? What does it mean to be prophetic?
How do we determine the tools students need in order to live in a future that is not ours and that we might not see?
Does our educational system accompany students into their own vulnerability and capacity for love and empathy? Are we touching hearts?
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